Dyre cræft
New translations of Exeter riddle fragments Modor Monigra (R.84), Se Wiht Wombe Hæfde (R.89), and Brunra Beot (R.92), accompanied by notes on process
in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
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This chapter offers new translations of some of the most fire-damaged riddles of the Exeter Book, accompanied by a translator’s note discussing the process of translating Old English fragments. While many translators attempt to smooth over missing language, the author is fascinated by the ways in which Old English poetry allows him to walk through its bones, and part of his translation instinct is about paying respect to gaps in these poetic remains, rather than attempting to force a seeming wholeness onto them. Old English poems already exist as sites of multiple kinds of loss. Given that these few remaining poems are in a language no longer spoken, are often damaged, and that many of them are considered without literary merit, it seems crucial to engage them in a way that honours their losses, instead of attempting to offer them ‘accessibility’. This place of loss and temporal and textual scarring is where these translations intervene and build. The translations presented in this chapter do not attempt to find answers to fragmented riddles. Instead, they communicate their words and their syntax, while preserving, rather than hiding, their damage.

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